On October 7th, 2019, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced the awarding of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.
Animals need oxygen to convert food into useful energy. The importance of oxygen to the human body has been understood for centuries, however, how cells adapt to changes in levels of oxygen has long been unknown. These three scientists discovered how cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen availability and identified the molecular mechanisms that regulate the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen. Their groundbreaking results revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most basic and fundamental adaptive processes and assisted in our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function.
The Nobel Committee stated these discoveries have paved the way for promising new therapies for treatment of anemia, cancer, and many other diseases.
AND017 is a small molecule drug developed by Kind Pharmaceuticals LLC targeting anemia based on this oxygen-sensing mechanism. This discovery added confidence to the potential efficacy of Kind Pharma’s drug candidates and to the development of this therapy.
The Committee Secretary, Thomas Perlman, said at a press conference that he had already made telephone contact with the three award-winning scientists, all of whom said they feel honored to share this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Kaelin was born in the US in 1957 and is a full professor at Harvard Medical School and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Ratcliffe was born in 1954 in Lancashirin, United Kingdom, and is the Director of Clinical Research at Francis Crick Institute, London, Director for Target Discovery Institute in Oxford and Member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Semenza was born in 1956 in the US, and is a full professor and the Director of the Vascular Research Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering.
The three scientists will share a prize of 9 million Swedish kronor (approximately US $910,000).